130,000 more people to benefit from PATH

130,000 more people to benefit from PATH
Children’s Advocate calls for welfare to extend to street children
INGRID BROWN, Observer senior reporter browni@jamaicaobserver.com
Wednesday, April 16, 2008

GOVERNMENT’S recent budgetary allocation of $1 billion to the Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) is expected to benefit an additional 130,000 persons this year, however, there is still no provision in place for children outside the formal school system such as those living on the streets to benefit.

This has prompted Children’s Advocate Mary Clarke to call for this welfare service to be extended to street children who are enrolled in programmes offered by a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Clarke raised the issue at the launch of the Social Investment for Children Initiative’s (SICI) newest publication entitled A Review of Economic and Social Investments for Jamaican Children held at the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston Monday.

Finance Minister Audley Shaw, who was addressing the gathering, said this allocation was made to the programme so as to increase the number of persons who would benefit from it.

However, Clarke requested to know just how those like street children would be incorporated so as to benefit.
Dr Pauline Knight, director of social policy planning and research at the Planning Institute Of Jamaica (PIOJ) and chair of SICI said it is quite a challenge to get non-formal students on the PATH programme, as most of the formal educational programmes they are enrolled in do not last beyond six months to a year.

"It is just too short a time for the application process for them to apply, be processed, accepted and get on the PATH programme before commencing their training," she said.
She said PATH cannot meet all the needs in the welfare system and cannot be expanded to one size fits all.

However, Clarke insists that there are programmes that extend for longer periods such as the Young Men’s Christian Association’s (YMCA) for the children they take off the streets.

In addition, she argued that there are other NGOs which are catering to the needs of children with disabilities in an attempt to fill the gap in services created by a governmental lack.

And Dr Knight, while agreeing that they need to give as much support as possible to these NGOs, said the ability to give more is the problem.

"It all comes back to the issue of expanding the resources made available for children, " she said.
Shaw also admitted that not enough was being invested on children, however, he said his government was hoping to change this in the future.

Meanwhile, Dr Knight said the increased allocation to the PATH programme is expected to yield higher benefits for upper secondary level students and for boys.

"We are targetting the benefits to see more improvements for boys to remain in school, so we will not only add to numbers but will improve how the programme works," she said. The additional 130,000 persons to be added to the programme will increase the total number of PATH beneficiaries to 360,000.


Claudette Pious – She puts children first


Claudette Pious – She puts children first
published: Tuesday | September 11, 2007

Sajoune Rose, Gleaner Writer


Claudette Pious during the interview with The Gleaner in her office at Children’s First in Spanish Town, St. Catherine. – photos by Junior Dowie/Staff Photographer

The need to see youth improve their lives and become successful individuals is her main drive. She lives by the belief that everyone can succeed despite the obstacles that might come his or her way.

We are speaking of the indomitable Claudette Pious, a woman who has risen from very humble beginnings where she experienced sufferings of all sort to a point where she is now directing the lives of youths, who had previously felt hopeless.

Unlike many persons who believe that poverty is the cause for the misfortunes of persons, Ms. Pious says this is a far cry from reality. One’s success, she says, depends on how much you want to achieve. "People who say poverty is a deterrent and dem caan do well, I don’t believe it because you affi have that determination." She believes that there are no excuses for failure. However, she reasons that, "If you sit down at home waiting for the job to come to you, it won’t come."

From an early age growing up in Manchester and later in Kingston, she learnt the importance of certain values. A grandfather with a wooden leg taught her that manners would take her places.

"As a Kingston girl, I didn’t know how to tell howdy. I didn’t know that I should tell cow and everybody howdy, so the next day I tell all bush howdy," says Ms. Pious, as she recalls the "proper beating" she received from her grandfather for neglecting basic manners.

Manners open doors

From that time, she said, she learnt that manners open doors and provide opportunities.

Growing up with an aunt because her mother migrated to Canada "to seek greener pastures", Ms. Pious says she got a very good experience of what it felt like to grow up without one’s immediate family. "I understood that she was not my mother and I also understood that I was Dorcas, the maid, very early, so I had to do a lot of Cinderella things and despite having some bumpy tings happen to me in life, there was always a likkle old lady in the community who would hide and gi mi a likkle money fi go school."

This, she said, instilled in her the motivation to do well and prove to her aunt that she could become a success in life as she had written her off, saying that she would not become anybody. "I bet her saying that before you die, I’m going to be a somebody and I was determined at all cost to do well," she said.

Formerly a teacher at Kingston College (KC), it was there that she realised what her true purpose in life was. She said that the "disappearance" of her boys led her to go to the Hope River where she discovered where they were spending their days. She said that she spent a few days sitting in the riverbed with the boys to understandwhat was happening to them and later discovered, "I’m not really supposed to be a teacher, I must be the guidance counsellor," she said. After that, she realised that this was her calling and started "sticking close" to the guidance department at KC and later doing courses in social work.

Save the Children UK

Later, there was an opening at Save the Children U.K., an international children’s charity based in the United Kingdom, which fights for children’s rights, and aims to deliver lasting improvements to children’s lives worldwide, which was doing some work in Jamaica. Taking the proactive approach, Ms. Pious went out to find the street children with whom she would have worked if she got the job. She aced the interview and in 1997, when Save the Children U.K. was phasing out in Jamaica, Children’s First emerged out of this project.

However, Children’s First sought to bring a more developmental approach to the work that was being done by Save the Children U.K. "Much of what they were doing was very welfare, with them handing out shoes, food, and I realised that you can’t be handing out fi di rest a wi life," she said. "Children’s First moved from welfare to empowering people to make changes in their lives."

Ms. Pious epitomises the image of a "woman in charge". This woman while juggling her job as a consultant for Cultural Approach Intervention in eight of the island’s prisons with the Ministry of National Security, still serves as director of Children’s First and spends time caring for the children at the institution. She says they are very understanding and "know when there is no money to buy the tissue paper, etc.". She said that the children are very involved in the decision making at the institution where they sit on the boards and help with the evaluation of the staff.

For her, the greatest thing about her work with Children’s First is the sense of achievement she feels when she sees her students go through the programme and later become successful.

Children’s achievements

Claudette Pious (left) is seen here in conversation at Children’s First with the instructors who work at the institution.

Today, one of her boys is enrolled at York University doing a degree in social work and politics. Another of her girls, Karlene Ellis, won a track and field scholarship and is now about to complete her master’s degree.

Currently, 40 per cent of the staff at Children’s First are individuals who have gone through the programme and have returned to help persons like themselves.

Gassett Myles, now 25 years old who was once a street kid, is now the barbering instructor at the institution. He praises Ms. Pious for the effort she is expending to change the lives of almost forgotten children like himself. "She come like a mother to me. She never show me a bad face and she always try fi encourage you. Mi respect her, man, and she has been so helpful to me, me nah let her down," he said as he rests his leg on his motorcycle under a tree outside in the yard of the institution. "The school do a lot for me, so me decide fi come back and share my knowledge," he said.

In the meanwhile, Stacy-Ann Lacey is now the administrative assistant at the institution. She received a scholarship and went to Jos´┐Ż Marti Technical High School. She says the institution has given her a lot and it is only right that she gives back. "It is m
y duty to give back and help other young people in terms of their progression," she said. On the day of the interview, Vandrea Thompson, another of the ‘past’ students, who has returned to serve the institution, was at the University of Technology registering to pursue a degree this upcoming school year.

To many Jamaicans, Ms. Pious is simply ‘Miss Likkle’ because she was a familiar face in many plays and commercials in electronic and print media. Her entrance into the theatre came after she placed third in the Tastee talent competition in 1979 and won a scholarship to the School of Drama. This experience she treasured.

"It was really, really important in terms of my development as it allowed me to do the things I really wanted to do. It also allowed me to carve my niche out there in that from early, I saw myself as a performer."

It’s been two years since she has performed in a play; however, the theatre experience, she said, has helped to create a bond between herself and the Jamaican people. "It allowed me to position myself in the heart of the Jamaican people which for me is important."

People recognise her

She said the fact that people see her today and feel the need to get close to her makes her feel good. "People see me and recognise me and want to touch me and hug me up and pickney waan rub me down and talk to me," she said. She said that this connection is very valuable to her.

Before this though, she thought of herself as a poet where she wrote poetry and used the writing as an escape from the hardships she was experiencing in her life. "When the bad tings happen to me, me did affi find a way so me usually write bout them." She even released a compilation titled, The Poetry of Claudette Richardson in 1979.

Today, she is an inspiration to many persons because of the role she has taken in trying to improve the lives of Jamaica’s children. She describes herself as "a visionary, a mother (mother in the widest sense of the word), and the young people see me as a motivator and say if you do it, it mean me can do it to, she said."

Before she became the woman she is today, she worked as a dry cleaner and, importantly, she pointed out that she used to clean a huge church in St. Andrew because she needed the money to carry out basic tasks. This kind of past, she said, developed in her "the importance of working with poor people and creating opportunities for them".

According to her, one of the greatest challenges she faces in her work is the lack of respect for the work that Children’s First is doing. She said that even though her institution movesapproximately 60 students to the formal school system each year and watches them until fifth or sixth form, it is not recognised as an educational institution.

Imparting valuable lessons

She said that in the face of all these adversities, the institution is blessed and she attempts to impart valuable lessons to the children. She says seeing what other people achieve is a big problem for her children and she tries to instil in them the importance of not looking at people and wanting what they want because they don’t know the route they went to get it.

She said that emulation of positive persons is critical. "We show them somebody from their community who came from similar experiences and are now doing well. It’s easier for them, so there is a lot of mirroring."

"To see a man who used to sell bag juice under the bus stop who is now a teacher or going to college propels them to do well," she said.

For her, two of the most important things we as a nation can do for our children is to protect them and provide opportunities for them to develop into worthwhile human beings.

In 2005, she received a Gleaner Honour Award not only for being an excellent performer during her days on stage, but also for he deeds. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D.

Children’s First received the Press Association of Jamaica Award for Excellent Contribution to Community Development and to Street Children in Particular on November 22, 1998. The project currently caters to the needs of children through the provision of education, training and life skills support mechanisms that are essential for the health and welfare of the nation’s youth.


Action needed on street children – Boys being used as criminal pawns

Action needed on street children – Boys being used as criminal pawns
published: Sunday | July 29, 2007

Fabian Ledgister, Freelance Writer

"Street boys will become street men, who become street monsters! I predicted it a long time ago; it’s inevitable when given the level of exposure they get," says Claudette Pious, veteran comedienne and head of the youth organisation, Children First.

Speaking against the background of recent criminal activities where police have identified street children as the perpetrators of major crimes, Pious cites the cause as lack of attention being given these youths.

"There have been too many meetings and talk of what needs to be done, and little or no action. Lawd! Mi a talk bout it fi 10 years now! But a only when yuh hear the street boy bruk in a house and shoot an uptown lady that dem get attention," says the frustrated long-time advocate of street children, in reference to an incident in which police say they removed the leader of an organised armed gang of street boys called the ‘In The Streets’ gang’.

According to the police, the young gang members, whose street turf is in the vicinity of the St. Andrew Parish Church, in Half-Way Tree, use windshield wiping – at the stop lights where Maxfield Avenue intersects with Hagley Park Road – as a cover-up for criminal activities.

The alleged street-boy gang was observed recently engaging in deplorable actions such as spraying one motorist with a water bottle, hitting another motor vehicle, and cursing many others who would not give them money. At one point, a few boys converged on the church’s parking lot, where one ofthem showed the others a cellular phone, assumed to be stolen, and then handed it to an older youth in the group.

Officer in charge of crime at the Half-Way Tree Police Station, Detective Sergeant Radcliffe Levy, says: "It’s a big business being conducted by this gang, where they loot cameras, cellphones, and other items, and sell them at cheap prices to others that sell them again."

Police say street kids are now including car theft in their criminal activities, after police identified two youths in a recent car robbery to be street boys from the In The Streets gang’s vicinity.

Reports are that about 3:45 a.m. on July 3, a green Toyota Kluger SUV, which was reported stolen from the Mayfair Vista area in Kingston 19, was spotted along Ambrook Lane, which runs directly behind the St. Andrew Parish Church’s cemetery. Two boys, who were recognised by the police to be members of the In the Streets gang, were spotted jumping out of the vehicle with what appeared to be gunshot wounds.

"The area is tense from a recent killing, so we believe that the boys were met with gunfire when they entered the community with the strange vehicle," an officer at the Half-Way Tree Police Station surmised. The police took them both to the Kingston Public Hospital, where they were treated and arrested for larceny of motor vehicle.

Convener of Hear The Children’s Cry, Betty-Ann Blaine, says that she recognises the behaviour of street children as bordering on delinquency, and has experienced their lawlessness first hand.

Verbal abuse

"I’ve been a victim of verbal abuse, I’ve been a victim of my car being damaged by some of these boys. There are organisations such as Children First, operated by Claudette Pious, the YMCA, and the Possibility programme, which the St. Andrew Care Centre operates, but much more needs to be done," says Blaine.

Pious says Children First has augmented its initiatives with the street children to include locating and eliminating the push factors that introduce them to street life. "What we do is look for the push factors – where they are coming from, who they live with. We institute both preventative and rehabilitative methods in a holistic way, and we are seeing success," she says.


"Rehabilitation is equipping these kids with a career skill such as barbering, photography and cosmetology, so instead of becoming monsters, they have the self-reliance and confidence to uplift themselves. In our preventative measures, we go into the homes and communities where these streets kids are coming from and try to empower the parents of kids with skills so they don’t push their children to street hustling," Pious added.

The Half-Way Tree police say they will also be taking proactive measures to stem the trend of street boys being used as criminal pawns, by levying criminal charges on the parents.

Detective Levy says: "These boys are buying bullets with your loose change and are recruiting more and more young persons without sources of income, so we are now going after the parents of these juveniles, levying charges of child neglect wherever applicable, and the child will be taken off the streets so as not to be used as criminals."

But top cop for the St. Andrew South division, Superintendent Derrick ‘Cowboy’ Knight, says that he will be trying what he describes as a passive and possibly more effective approach to combat the issue of street boys entering crime.

"About six years ago, SSP (Senior Superintendent) Powell, then head of the Newport West Police Station, teamed up with a teacher to create an education and feeding programme that saw success. I am now in dialogue with that said teacher to reinstitute this initiative, as well as NGOs, PMI and the wharf to get this under way," he says.

Street children not targeted in fight against HIV/AIDS

Street children not targeted in fight against HIV/AIDS
published: Sunday | July 1, 2007

Tracey-Ann Wisdom, Sunday Gleaner Writer

Nineteen-year-old Kemar Cunningham dances skill-fully between two cars at the Hagley Park Road stop light, ignoring the insults from drivers and passers-by as he wipes soap from a car’s windshield. The light changes and the traffic begins to move, but he continues to dance in the road beside the moving vehicles as he heads towards a group of young men who have gathered on the steps of a building’s in the St. Andrew Parish Church yard.

The group, about 12 members strong, is dancing and singing along to a song, by dancehall artiste Mavado, playing on the small radio beside them.

While Cunningham and his colleagues are entertaining themselves, two more young men rush out into the line of traffic as the light once again turns to red. More insults are shouted through open car windows and another car pulls up as one of the boys steps off the curb. The boys are used to this form of danger, but something even more sinister than HIV/AIDS could easily rip their lives apart.

Hard to reach

According to the document, ‘Street Children and HIV/AIDS’, on the website streetchildren.org.uk, these young men and other children who live on the streets are at high risk of contracting HIV, for several reasons.

The document states: "Exclusion from services (including education and information on HIV/AIDS), stigma and discrimination, exposure to unprotected sex (sometimes in exchange for food, protection or money, or as a result of violence and exploitation by peers and adults), [and] illicit drug use all make street children vulnerable to HIV."

However, they are not being specifically targeted to benefit from the various HIV-prevention programmes in Jamaica. Carla Moore, behaviour change com-munication officer in the Ministry of Health, says this is partly because they are hard to reach.

One-on-one interaction necessary

"It is difficult to reach a large group of them in one place at one time, primarily because they live on the streets. They are not in schools, they do not belong to any specific community," she says, "It wouldrequire a lot of resources to reach them because it is almost certainly one-on-one interaction that would be necessary. The national programme does not have those resources at this time."

Moore also adds that street children require more than just HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI) information.

Moore refers to Children First, a non-governmental organisation based in Spanish Town, St. Catherine, as the ministry’s sub-group that works with street children and other at-risk youths.

"We try to reach them in our general interventions and outreach activities. Special events such as World AIDS Day, Safer Sex Week, and other site-based interventions that take place at venues such as St. William Grant Park, Mandela Park and at plazas would also reach them," she says, "Also, they would be exposed to the bus-back billboards, radio and even TV ads of our mass-media campaigns."

Despite the lack of an intervention, Cunningham and his friends are aware of HIV/AIDS, and they are cautious. "Yu might see a girl an she look nice, but yu no know her, yu no know if she clean. Dem time de yu afi wear yu socks (condom)," Cunningham say. "An yu cyaa even look pon dem an know, so yu afi careful. Me love wear my socks."

Unprotected sex

JR, 18, one of Cunningham’s friends, says he also learned how the virus is transmitted while in classes at the St. Andrew Parish Church Care Centre, located on Ambrook Lane, not far from the church. "If yu have unprotected sex, yu can ketch it, or if you have a cut and somebody who have it have a cut and di blood ketch your cut," he says.

He also says that knowing this, he would not discriminate against any of his friends should they contract HIV. "Mi wouldn’t fraid fi drink out a di same cup wa him use or anyting," he says.

Although the Ministry of Health currently has no plans in place to develop an initiative specifically for street children, Ms. Moore explained that they will continue to work with Jamaica’s young people. "We continue to develop programmes for adolescents in all settings, in school and out of school. And we continue to try to make our interventions accessible to the public so everyone, including street children, can benefit," she says.

Last year, approximately 2,000 children were said to be living on Jamaica’s streets.

No night out for street kids

No night out for street kids
Gov’t seeking help of retired cops to keep them off the road
TANEISHA LEWIS, Observer staff reporter
Thursday, April 05, 2007

Students from Dor’s Basic School perform a dialect titled ‘Weh mi fadda deh’, during Wednesday’s launch of Child Month, at the Scout Association of Jamaica headquarters in Kingston. Enjoying the presentation are Douglas Orane (left), the patron of Child Month, and Health Minister Horace Dalley. (Photo: Bryan Cummings)

GOVERNMENT, grappling with the growing problem of children roaming the streets, especially at nights, plans to use retired policemen to keep them off and warned parents that they would face prosecution.

"We want retired policemen who have an interest to form a little night squad to get them (children) off the streets," Health Minister Horace Dalley told the Observer after Wednesday’s launch of Child Month at the Scout Association of Jamaica headquarters in Kingston.

The Child Development Agency (CDA), said the minister, would be seeking to find a location to house the children where they would be cared for until their parents are located. "We haven’t really worked out the logistic, but we are going to also find the parents and prosecute the parents," the minister added.

Current figures were not available, but the 2002 National Survey of Street and Working Children estimated the number of affected children as 6,448, with 20 per cent of them being boys. The report was prepared by Ruel Cooke from Worker Management Services Limited for the Ministry of Health.

The survey said the majority of children of the street (those who work and live on the streets) – 58.5 per cent – indicated that they wanted to return home, but less than 40 per cent of them were able, for one reason or other, to do so.
During Wednesday’s launch of Child Month, to be observed in May, Dalley said one of his personal mandates as the minister of health was to ensure that parents who neglect their children are held accountable.

"If it is the last thing I am going to do before I exit the public office, I want to ensure that parents are held accountable when they neglect their children," he said. "I want to rid the streets of children at nights. I don’t expect to see children on the street begging at night," said Dalley, whose ministry is responsible for children services.

He said while there were street children on the road begging money or assisting parents with selling goods to support their family, there should be no reason why a child should be on the streets unaccompanied and left to the perils of the night.
The minister’s announcement was immediately welcomed by Children’s Advocate Mary Clarke.

"I commend the minister for this initiative that he is going to have implemented to get children off the streets at nights," Clarke told the Observer after the launch of Child Month. "Children have no right to be on the street after certain hours.
I commend him for his statement that parents are going to be held accountable. We have to find the parents and we have to hold them accountable. And we have to seek to find out where they need advice education, support service because we are here to help parents but they must be held accountable," said Clarke.

Street kids dilemma

Street kids dilemma

‘Foster care, children’s homes will make them rebel’
BY PETRE WILLIAMS Sunday Observer reporter
Sunday, August 13, 2006

The practice of putting street-wise kids in foster care or children’s homes is futile and will end in rebellion, a clinical psychologist is warning Jamaica.

Dr Pearnel Bell, who practises out of tourist resort city Montego Bay in St James, also pleaded for a change of tactics to help street children rejoin mainstream society and give them a chance to live a normal childhood.

Bell suggested the establishment of multi-resource centres, designed to allow them the autonomy to make their own decisions regarding their care, saying that the practice of admittance to places of safety and/or foster care was simply "not going to cut it".

"These children find it very difficult to live in homes that often call for clear structure and boundaries in which they must operate," she said. She cited her own experience with street children who had fallen out of foster care because of their inability to adapt to such controlled environment.
"These cases are but a few of the many cases of street children placed in foster care who just could not make the transition to living in normal settings," said Bell.

She argued that the children had become accustomed to fending for themselves on the streets and making life choices without having to answer to adults. As a result, any attempt to take that away would end in rebellion.

"When they go on the streets and realise that they can make a living and become autonomous and independent, this is now where they remain on the streets. As children, they become in control and feel a sense of power in a sort of warped way," Bell, who has been practising for five years, told the Sunday Observer.
HALL… came up with the idea for multi-resource centres

"When the freedom and the independence that they acquire are taken away from them, even though they are in a better environment, it is difficult for them. (On the streets), they decide when they wake up, when they eat. All of that gives them a sense of freedom and that sort of freedom they don’t want to be taken away from them," she added.

Children’s advocate Mary Clarke agreed with Bell about the required approach to dealing with street children. Giving children the opportunity to make an input in their care is, after all, an important element of the Child Care and Protection Act, she said.

"The Child Care and Protection Act requires that, even as it defines the best interest of the child on which it is grounded," she said, noting that once the child was of "sufficient age and maturity" so as to be able to form his or her own views, then such views would be taken into account.

The 2002 National Survey of Street and Working Children estimated that the number of affected children could be as high as 6,448 at that time, with 20 per cent of them being boys. The report, prepared by Ruel Cooke of Worker Management Services Limited for the Ministry of Health, also made the distinction between "children on the street" and "children of the street".

Children on the street referred to those who work on the street but go home to sleep, while children of the street referred to those who work and live on the streets.
In Cooke’s survey, the majority of ‘children of the street’ (58.5 per cent) indicated that they wanted to return home, though less than 40 per cent of them were able, for one reason or other, to do so.

At the same time, the survey said that 19 per cent of those street children interviewed claimed to fear "no-one" and 10 per cent, "nothing".

It is against this background that the multi-resource centres – an idea of Elizabeth Hall, co-founder of the Committee for the Upliftment of the Mentally Ill (CUMI) Street People Programme in the resort city – has been deemed of particular importance.
Hall was also the first president of the Montego Bay chapter of Jamaicans For Justice, the human rights group.

Calling for the centres, Bell said their successful operation would depend on a raft of criteria, including centrality of location to allow for easy accessibility by street children. In addition, they would require:

. a staff of social workers, psychologists, counsellors and mentors;
. the inclusion of a dormitory facility to accommodate those children in need of a place to sleep; and
. the offer of meals as well as facilities of interest to children, including computer classes, karate and other sports as well as educational facilities.

At the same time, she said, the facilities would be run on a system of rules, even as those children served would get the opportunity to make their own choices.

"The centres would have certain rules, structures, boundaries. You know that this is the behaviour required, so now it is up to you to decide. The whole idea is to give them that sense of ‘I am making the choice’," she said.

In cases where children are extremely anti-social, they would have to be dealt with specifically, Bell said.
Funding should come through partnerships between public and private sector interests at the community level, where it was felt that such centres would prove most effective.

"Here in Montego Bay (for example), you have the business community and they should have a vested interest in having these children rehabilitated. It would be in the best interest of their businesses to help," she insisted. "Professionals could help too, by volunteering their services. But it would be a community effort, along with grant funding and governmental intervention."

The psychologist cautioned that the time to establish the centres was now, and failure to act would lead, inevitably, to a society in decay.

"They are children, and on the streets they are learning anti-social behaviour. They are learning to become criminals. They are learning that hard work is not important because they are learning how to beg their way through life. They are learning a range of behaviours, which, as they make their way into adulthood, is detrimental to society," said Bell.

"So you have these children on the streets who are going to translate into a society in decay. If we are having a group of children lacking the basic necessities germane to being a child, then you can imagine the kinds of problems when they get into adulthood, the problems that we are going to be facing. They need to be living normal childhoods," she added.

As if to support Bell, Cooke’s survey revealed that 35 per cent of sexually exploited children were doing it as straight "business", while 23.5 per cent were exotic dancers and 12 per cent escorts. Other services, including homosexual acts, were also "well represented", the report said, accounting for some 29 per cent of street children.

"The usual starting age for this kind of activity (sexual exploitation) is 13. The minimum starting age is nine. Their main influences for engaging in this line of activity are the attractive monetary rewards, an impossible domestic situation and the love of one’s body," it added.

There are also reported cases of street boys who become violent with motorists who refuse to have their windscreens cleaned by them for a cost.
Meanwhile, Children’s Advocate Clarke sought to give assurance that there was a sense of urgency in the formulation of a comprehensive plan to rehabil
itate street children.

Stakeholders, including the CDA, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the St Andrew Care Centre, last met on July 6 to work out a mechanism.

"You have a lot of ad hoc, sporadic effort and it is not going to be easy to bring them under a comprehensive programme," Clarke said. "I am not going to rush and then what I do is ineffective."

Clarke pointed to the past when people had rushed and met with limited success, treating the symptoms rather than the source of the street children problem.

"We can keep treating the symptoms, but somewhere along the line we are going to have to treat the causes of the problem, because as soon as you take one set off the street, you have another set," she said. "We have to deal with causes and not symptoms. Children on the street is symptomatic of something else."

Golding urges action to rescue street children from violence, sexual abuse

Golding urges action to rescue street children from violence, sexual abuse – JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM
Balford Henry
Monday, April 24, 2006

THE issue of an identified 2,000 street children is causing concern in the Jamaica Labour Party, Opposition leader Bruce Golding told the Standing finance Committee (SFC) of Parliament last week.

Golding said the figure, published in the 2006 State of the World Children report done by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), required some examination.

He said that while the Possibility Programme under the Office of the Prime Minister was well-intentioned and had provided $12.4 million to train street children in various skills, ‘it is not a programme that is making any significant impact.’

Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr Omar Davies, answering for Child Advocate Mary Clarke, said that although just over $12 million was provided in the 2006/07 budget for her office, there was an additional $18 million carried from 2005/06 which had not been spent because of Clarke’s late appointment last year.

Not all programmes addressing children’s problems are directed through the Advocate’s office, Davies said. Some are run by non-governmental organisations.

‘Her priority is to identify the causal factors, in terms of from whence the children came and why they are there,’ said Davies.

Clarke, he said, will work with all programmes.
But Golding was critical of the seeming lack of urgency in dealing with the problems of children.

‘At the rate that the Possibility Programme is going, children are going to be coming on the streets faster than you are able to accommodate them in this programme. We really need to first of all get hold of them and just rescue them,’ Golding insisted

"The kind of things they are exposed to on the streets, the violence and the sexual abuse, we just need to get hold of them and put them under some sort of care and guidance."
And, Davies insisted: "As well as to get to the root causes."

Golding also asked that the Child Advocate take even a cursory look at some 274 children in correctional institutions, including reform schools, to assess the effectiveness of the rehabilitation process.

The life of a street child

The life of a street child – JAMAICAOBSERVER.COM:
Sheldon Wright , Observer TEENage writer
Tuesday, February 28, 2006

I walk through the crime-infested streets of Kingston desperately seeking the next person to beg.
I think of all the friends that I had at high school, the break periods when we used to play football. Why did I have to be in this situation? I thought. Mama never had enough food.

With a family of six and no father, the only place for me became the streets, where I could scavenge for food and hustle money by washing car windows. Drivers mostly treat you like a common criminal, but there are the boys who fight back and behave like criminals indeed.

We are not all bad. It’s not our fault that we are born in this unfair circumstance. I see other kids riding safely in the comfort of their family vehicles, laughing. Lord, just end it right now. Jamaica is a funny place… some filthy rich, while some so poor they walk almost naked. But, why me?

I walked through Mall Plaza and looked at the clothes and shoes that I can’t have in the store because I have no money. Then a car drove by playing a song by rapper 50 cent, ‘Man, you a window shopper. Mad at me a guess I know why.’ I immediately started to cry. A lady looked at me, asking what’s the matter, but I just turned away and cried harder. If ‘children are the future’ I can only wonder when that dream will become a reality for people like me.

In an interview the Hon Edward Seaga, a fellow of the University of the West Indies, told TEENage that street children are mainly a result of poverty that affects the parents who have a responsibility for the children, and rural-to-urban migration. He also added that crime not necessarily stem from street children because they are not committing any crimes but merely soliciting in order to survive.

Seaga has established various fund-raising events, as well as the LEAP programme, located on Duke Street, that take in street children and give them an opportunity to learn a skill.
After this brief interview, I couldn’t help but think that we should not treat these young people harshly merely because of the position they are in or how they behave. Give them a chance and let the children be the future."

Street children policy almost ready, says Clarke

Street children policy almost ready, says Clarke
TANEISHA DAVIDSON, Observer staff reporter
Thursday, January 26, 2006

Children’s Advocate Mary Clarke receives a certificate of appreciation from Laban Roomes, president of the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Kingston, at their monthly meeting at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston on Monday. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

RECENTLY appointed children’s advocate Mary Clarke says an inter-sectoral committee is in the final stage of putting together a policy for street children policy, which it hopes the government will endorse by the end of the year.

Speaking on Monday at the weekly luncheon of the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Kingston, Clarke said the policy, which is currently in its draft stage, will guide government ministries and agencies as to how to deal with matters pertaining to street children.

"It will also have a proposal for the constitutional mechanism for overall responsibility for street children and children in child labour," she told the gathering at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston. "It is very broad-based and deals with issues of prevention, intervention, rehabilitation and re-integration, whether it is in the school system or wherever."

Among the organisations that have been working on the policy is the Child Development Agency (CDA), the ministry of labour as well as several non-governmental organisations such as Children First.

Meanwhile, Clarke emphasised that the Child Care and Protection Act stipulates that it is illegal for any parent or guardian to allow their child to beg or work on the street, and if found guilty the penalty is a fine of up to $250,000 or a maximum of three months at hard labour in prison.
In the meantime, the new children’s advocate said she would have to relinquish her position as member of the intersectoral committee that is currently working on the policy.

Clarke was appointed children’s advocate at the beginning of the year. She is responsible for investigating and representing cases of violation of children’s rights and various forms of crimes and abuses against the nation’s children. She will also serve as the watchdog for agencies and organisations which are responsible for the island’s children.

"As a watchdog for the children, I will have to be able to identify areas where the rights of children are being infringed on," she said, adding that her immediate objective would be to disseminate information about the role, functions and responsibility of the children’s advocate and the office of the children’s advocate. "I will be ensuring that the voices of the children are heard at all times."

In addition, Clarke said she is also currently working to facilitate public access to the office of the children’s advocate, which is temporarily located at the ministry of health, as well as establishing a system of protocol for dealing with complaints.

Her appointment is in accordance with the stipulations of the Child Care and Protection Act, which came into effect March 2004.

Among her other responsibilities are:

. Receiving and conducting investigations into complaints made by or on behalf of a child whose rights have been infringed by authorities, including those who are inmates and detainees of government institutions.

. Representing the children in court and bringing non-criminal court proceedings concerning the right or the best interest of the child.

.Reviewing laws relating to the rights of the child as well as service provided for children by the relevant authority.

. Giving advice and making recommendations to Parliament, ministries and the relevant authorities relating to the rights and best interest of the child.

Policy for street children to come soon

Jamaica Gleaner News – ‘Policy for street children to come soon’ – Tuesday | January 24, 2006:
"Tuesday | January 24, 2006

Petrina Francis, Staff Reporter

A NATIONAL policy for street children is soon to be developed, according to newly-appointed Children’s Advocate Mary Clarke.

Mrs. Clarke said yesterday that the policy is aimed at guiding Government on how to address the issues that are affecting street children and ultimately remove them from the streets.

‘This is in a draft policy which has to be finalised and taken to the Government for endorsement,’ she told The Gleaner yesterday.

She added: ‘We presented the draft to various ministries and got their suggestions and it’s just to finalise it now.’


Mrs. Clarke said that once Government endorses the policy, it will become mandatory for each ministry – namely Education, National Security and Health – to develop an action plan to address the plight of these children.

Speaking at the Kiwanis Club of Downtown Kingston’s weekly luncheon, held yesterday at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, Mrs. Clarke said that under the Child Care and Protection Act, every citizen has the responsibility to report children who are involved in child labour.

She told The Gleaner that though scores of street children can be seen at major traffic lights each day, much is being done to help them.


She said various children’s organisations are not only taking children off the streets, but are also equipping parents so they can be better able to provide for their children.

Last November, Superintendent Newton Amos announced that he would be clamping down on street children. At least eight parents were placed before the courts last year for neglecting their children.

As Children’s Advocate, Mrs. Clarke is responsible for investigating and representing cases of violation of children’s rights and various forms of crimes and abuses against the nation’s children. She will also serve as the watchdog for agencies and organisations which are responsible for the island’s children.

Apart from increasing the awareness of the role of her office, Mrs. Clarke said she would ensure that the voices of the children are heard at all times."